On December 3, 2015 the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Services Review Committee released a report to the SSMU Legislative Council revealing that Elections SSMU, First Year Council (FYC), McGill International Students Network, Organic Campus, Players’ Theatre, and Savoy Society failed their service reviews.
Another five services (Black Students’ Network, Nightline, Plate Club, Queer McGill, Union for Gender Empowerment) passed service reviews with reservations. The remaining nine services passed the review.
According to the report, in order to be considered a service, a group must offer “resources, support, referral, awareness, or education to members of [SSMU …] and their operations must fall into at least two of these five categories.”
In an email to The Daily, SSMU VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained why the Committee chose to review all twenty services, when it is only mandated to review five per semester.
“Resources, support, referral, awareness, or education to members of [SSMU …] and their operations must fall into at least two of these five categories.”
“Service reviews have not been conducted since 2011, and many services have no records of being reviewed at all in the past ten years,” Bialik said.
This, Bialik continued, contributed strongly to the large number of services that failed or passed with reservations, adding that it “certainly indicates that the service review process was well overdue.”
The Committee’s report further provided recommendations to each service that failed or passed with reservations. According to Bialik, “nearly all of the services who failed their service review did so because their operations were incompatible with the definition of a service, not because those services were failing at what they do. […] The fact that the majority of the failures were due to incompatibilities with the services structure indicates that our services structure is in need of an overhaul.”
“Certainly indicates that the service review process was well overdue.”
This structure has undergone little review since its implementation. Bialik explained that when “services” as an affiliation status was created, SSMU had “interest groups” (groups of people united by an interest) and “functional groups” (groups of people that perform a specific function). These functional groups became services, “despite the fact that not all of them were necessarily service providers.” This incompatibility was never resolved.
The Committee has determined that Elections SSMU “only fulfills the resources pillar through their rentals of the online voting software to other student groups,” and therefore, does not meet the minimum of two criteria required to maintain service status.
Consequently, the Committee recommended that the Ad-Hoc Electoral Reform Committee remove Elections SSMU from the SSMU structure and make it into an independent body.
“It’s important that Elections SSMU be entirely politically neutral, but placing them under any executive with the knowledge that all executive portfolios are inherently political in some way, detracts from that neutrality,” Bialik said.
Luke Steverango, a U2 Mathematics student, agreed with Bialik that Elections SSMU should be politically neutral. When asked how services such as Elections SSMU could better represent students, he emphasized communication as a problem.
“It’s important that Elections SSMU be entirely politically neutral, but placing them under any executive with the knowledge that all executive portfolios are inherently political in some way, detracts from that neutrality.”
Steverango said, “If [Elections SSMU] actually talked to students about what they’re voting for, why they’re voting, that would be better, because SSMU has turned into more of a laughing stock, which you can see when looking at voter turnout.”
Similarly, a U2 Psychology student who wished to remain anonymous agreed that services, particularly Elections SSMU, need to be reorganized.
In an interview with The Daily, the student stated, “Honestly, I think SSMU should just be taken out and we should start with a whole new system, because I feel that all the resources they have to get the information out there are being used currently – but it’s not enough.”
“Honestly, I think SSMU should just be taken out and we should start with a whole new system.”
The Committee made similar recommendations for other services, including the FYC. It recommended that the “First Year Council make an effort to focus more on direct resource provision and referrals” and that SSMU Council consider an alternative to service status. Likewise, the Committee found that Players’ Theatre and Savoy Society failed to meet the definition of a service, and “must work to differentiate their operation from other performing arts groups on campus.”
The Daily reached out for a comment from the implicated services, however only Savoy Society responded, saying that they “do not want to make a comment until they meet with SSMU.”